Google Predicts Obama for President

Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States, according to Google Trends.

Based on our previous analysis of Google Trends leading up to Super Tuesday, we predicted Obama and McCain would come out on top after Super Tuesday. As it ended up, Google Trends was only about 70% correct in a state-by-state comparison and Hillary Clinton was actually on top with a slight lead after Super Tuesday. However, Obama has since pulled ahead in the delegate count in the close Democratic race and he is gaining momentum. It appears that Google Trends may be an accurate indicator of how people will vote after all.

The graph below from Google Trends shows the amount of search traffic on the top four presidential candidates’ last names, Google Trends data shows “Obama” is searched on more than any other candidate, with “Clinton” a distant second.

For the Republican nomination, McCain has been searched on most often, thus predicting his nomination as the Republican candidate. However, the disparity between searches for Republican and Democratic nominees predicts there will be a Democrat in the White House after the 2008 Election, and it looks like that person will be Barack Obama.

Based on Obama’s huge lead in Google Trends, the possibility of McCain beating out Obama in the 2008 General Election seems next to impossible.

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  1. Russell Page says

    I’ve found to be a far better predictor of political races. It’s a mock stock market where users buy and trade ownership in candidates instead of businesses.

    It has been frighteningly accurate because of the amount of people who do their own research on polls, news, etc… before buying stock as part of this online game. While most of the big news stations were guessing about tight polls in the Florida race between Romney and McCain, Romney’s stock price dropped two days before the election and sure enough, he lost.

    I check the polls, but has been so on the mark so many times (even in the neck and neck races) that it’s hard not to give it more cred.

  2. Rand says

    Predicting the winner of a presidential election in February is about like predicting the winner of the Superbowl in November. A lot of things can happen along the way. Granted, Obama has a winning personality and great oratory. But what if the economy tanks? Obama has already proposed hundreds of billions in new programs that would drive Federal spending up and taxes along with it.

    Obama has also done a good job to date of avoiding any real substance. You can only talk about change and hope for so long before someone insists that you actually explain how you are going to accomplish them.

    Finally, Obama is a complete unknown on security issues. If there is another terrorist attack in the US or western Europe, a lot of people will be moving quickly into the McCain camp. If only None O. Theabove would run.

  3. James Herog says

    I’m sure someone will be mad at me for pointing this out, but Ron Paul is FAR ahead of any of those candidates in google searches. Does this mean he will be the new president?

  4. Dave Bascom says

    @hack124x768 – first off, Ron Paul is a fluke because he’s been hugely popular online but fizzled in the polls. Besides that, if you look at Google Trends, Ron Paul is NOT ahead of the others.

    @Intelitary, the last name search thing won’t work for Ron Paul because his last name is also a very popular first name. Check out where Ron Paul is at with full name searches:

    Obama and Clinton are still in the lead, although as of today, Ron Paul does have a slight lead over McCain.

  5. Intelitary Milligence says

    Ouch, still mchuck is fighting for relevance.

    I think the markets and google both have the same flaw: confirmation bias – google from supporters and markets from media.

    Google doesn’t have a built in question, while the markets have who will win as the question.

    Google is agnostic about the why and therefore allows for richer detail.

    But elections are a numbers game so we shall see.

  6. Rand says

    The other bias that has not been considered is generational bias. The likelihood of people voting is somewhat inversely proportional to the likelihood that they are online. A million 19 year olds may look up Obama, but whether they will actually show up to vote is another question. Likewise, there are a lot of older people who have never googled anything who have voted in every election since before Al Gore invented the Internet.

  7. Nelson says

    This is all true. There are a lot of factors that were not taken into consideration in this prediction that will be taken into consideration in the general elections. However, what this data is suggesting is that regardless of those factors, the front-runners of the race have corresponded with the amount of searches on their last names. It’s simply phenomenal that even with those flaws in the research, it has still proven to be accurate.

  8. Ross says

    I think also because Barack Obama is a virtual unknown people are googling him to find out more about him. That doesnt mean that they would vote for him. I may well mean that they are afraid of voting for him….

  9. Ron P. says

    Does anyone else think the 2nd Bush election was rigged? Especially in FL? Things like that don’t give me much hope for any election in the future… :(

  10. Jacques Snyman says

    Interesting application of Google trends…the points raised against the figures reflecting in the polls are very relevant, however it does indicate that the majority of political searches are about Obama, which does indicate a keen public interest in his campaign. Let’s face it folks, there is either the 1st woman president, or the 1st black man as president coming. History is in the making here.

  11. Rand says

    Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Part of the searches could be attributed to the fact that no one really knows anything about Obama. The revelations last week that Obama has spent 20 years as a member of a church whose minister goes on anti-white/anti-American tirades may play well to the far left of the democratic party, but it will not play well with blue collar democrats or independents.

    The American voters are independent minded and there is plenty of time for something to come up that pushes a few percentage points in either direction. According to all of the polls, that is all it would take to swing the election.

  12. Julio says

    I dont vote, and If I did I dang sure wouldnt be for Obama, But I have searched his name just because Im curious to see if America is stupid enough to want him as president. I dont think that our votes really make a crap. If they want Obama to be president he will be president. politicians are like car salesmen, they tell you what you want to hear and then a couple of months down the road you find out you got a lemon.

  13. Russ says

    Google trends is a terrible predictor of elections because it doesn’t even remotely represent people who actually vote. The media also tends to lean toward liberal in news coverage as well. For example, Hillary Clinton consistently had more mentions in Google news than any other candidate, but where is she now?

    If you look at at the actual polling, you’ll find the real nature of the election right now is nothing what the media presents it to be. John McCain and Barack Obama are in a dead heat. McCain crushes Obama in polls where people are asked who is the most prepared, and Obama does the same when they are asked about healthcare. Do not be surprised if McCain wins.

  14. says

    Obviously people search a candidate’s name for a variety of reasons, so it seems unlikely to be an accurate predictor of election results. The premise is that the more popular candidate will be searched on more often and will also get more votes. Even from our analysis back in the primaries, that didn’t always hold true.

    Even though the race is getting close now, it seems Obama is much more popular than McCain (at least on the web). For another example, check out the Google Trends report comparing the two candidates’ main websites:

  15. Russ says

    First, I should apologize for the way my last post came out as it was intended as a direct response to the comment about how Google trends being a great predictor for political campaigns because it worked well for American Idol. I get a little riled over political campaigns, but my point was, audience matters. American Idol’s audience has a high percentage of internet users, so Google trends works well for predicting results. Political campaigns are extremely different. Take one trip to the voting booth, and you’ll see what I mean. Lots of old people. Lots of older people, and not a lot of young, high volume internet users.

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